Monday, May 22, 2023


The cast of Mr. Music was excellent. Bing Crosby and Charles Coburn had good chemistry together, and a decade earlier they had appeared together as father and son in 1940’s Road to Singapore. Character actor Tom Ewell was underused in this film. He played the role of Bing’s stressed-out butler and caddy Cupcake. I would say that the one item that was getting tough to believe at this point of Bing’s life that a young girl like Nancy Olson would fall in love with such a much more mature man as Bing Crosby. They worked well together, and he appeared later with Nancy in the made for television musical High Tor in 1956. Maybe it is just me, but by 1950 I feel that Bing was too old to be wooing college girls in his movies. In his next movies he would be wooing Jane Wyman, which to me was much more believable. Mr. Music, for the minor Paramount musical it was, boasted a great cast of special guests like Peggy Lee, Dorothy Kirsten, The Merry Macs, Marge and Gower Champion, and last but not least Groucho Marx. Bing and Groucho were long time friends, and they sang a version of “Life Is So Peculiar”. One of the funniest lines in the film was said by Groucho Marx, and I wonder if he ad-libbed it, but he was appearing in Bing’s new play at the college to try to raise awareness for a new producer, and Groucho says “I’m here to investigate the student body. I hope I don’t lose my faculties.” For some reason, I always laughed at that, even as a young teenager watching this movie and not fully knowing the humor that was Groucho Marx!

What baffles me about the movie were the songs that were written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke. They were catchy and enjoyable, and Bing was in near perfect voice when sang them, but none of the songs became big hits. Two songs written in for the movie, Bing never recorded. There was a title song “Mr. Music” that was only sung by a chorus and a song called “Wasn’t I There”, which Bing only sung a few lines of that he never recorded. Bing did record six of the songs for Decca Records and there were issued on a 78rpm titled ”Songs from Mr. Music”. My personal favorite song from the film was “Accidents Will Happen”. Bing sings this alone and again with Dorothy Kirsten. He also recorded two versions of this song. One version was a more of a slow solo ballad. The other recording was a duet between Bing and Kirsten that was truly dramatic and enjoyable. The song “Life Is So Peculiar” was probably the most successful song from the film, and Louis Armstrong recorded a nice version of it. Again, I think all the songs in the film were good, and they deserve to be remembered more than they are.

I enjoyed the film but the reviews at the time were a mixed bag:

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times in his review of December 21, 1950 wrote: "To brighten the Christmas season, our old friend, Bing Crosby, is in town in a role (and an entertainment) that fits him—and he it—like a glove. In Paramount’s Mr. Music, which came to the Paramount yesterday ... Mr. Music may not stack up with the best of the Crosby films, but it is certainly a contemporary achievement that the master may lean happily upon."

Variety concluded: "Despite a contrived story, the ingredients are sufficiently well mixed to make Mr. Music a box office winner”

I remember this movie fondly from my youth. My dad had it recorded on an old VHS tape, and before I had the recordings in my collection, I literally stuck a microphone to the television speaker and recorded the songs to my little portable cassette player. It is amazing how far my collection has come, but it would be fun to have those old cassettes tapes again. Not only did those amateur recordings I made include the soundtrack from the film, but probably my late father yelling or coughing in the background! Back to the film, Mr. Music is not Bing’s best film by any stretch of the imagination, but I really wish this film was released on DVD or Blu-Ray. There is a certain charm about the film. Even though Bing himself did not like the title of the film, because he thought it was too pretentious, Bing was Mr. Music for decades, and he continues to be for millions of fans everywhere...

MY RATING: 10 out of 10

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